On October 22, 2004, Novell released SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 (abbreviated as SLP9.2 henceforth) targeted at the home user and Linux enthusiast crowd. Since I am already using SUSE 9.1 for my daily work on my IBM laptop, I was quite eager to check out 9.2. SLP9.1 is already a very polished Linux distribution, with tons of software ready to go. So here’s a SuSE user’s review of 9.2 after several weeks using the new version. Update: Also see some 9.2 screenshots with KDE and Gnome.
I run Linux exclusively
on my home computer, laptop and all servers at my work place. Most of
the customers that I support run some flavor of Linux or UNIX. I
wanted to evaluate how well SLP can fit any/all of these roles.
Currently I run a mix of distributions: Suse, Debian, Red Hat, and
RHEL recompiles such as WhiteBox and Rocks.
Traditionally, I have
been a Red Hat and Debian user with occasional flings with Gentoo and
SuSE Linux Enterprise Server, but only recently migrated to using
SuSE on a daily basis.
I asked Novell’s
Singapore office for a copy of SLP9.2. The next day, Novell couriered me
a nice green box. (Thanks to David Tang) I have installed the copy
on my home PC, laptop, an Athlon64 Shuttle XPC and a very high end
IBM Z-Pro Technical Workstation to test various functionalities.
I have run the
installation for several weeks to look out for any problems (lockups, usability, missing packages etc) This review is a summary of
my experience and observations.
Introduction to SLP9.2:
You can buy
full-version, boxed sets for US$ 89.95 either from the online store (and pay a hefty US$60 UPS airfreight to Singapore, as I did on earlier occasion)
or order locally for about S$168.00
An update version for
current SLP9.1 owners is offered at US$59.95 (Also available is a
student version for the same price.)
The boxed set contains:
One 300+ page
printed User Guide
One 700+ page
printed Administration guide
One CD/DVD box
A combined IA32
(x86 – Pentium, Athlon, Celerons, including mobile versions),
AMD64 ( x86_64 ) and EM64T installer DVD
A DVD with all
Five CD-set with
IA32/x86 installation files.
Over 3500 software
I browsed through the
comprehensive printed documentation. Even for a person like me who
has been using Linux for several years, the printed manuals offer a
treasure of information. The manuals are of professional quality and
any user with reasonable computer skills should be able to pick up
Linux by referring to the manuals.
The User Guide explains
installation and mostly desktop-type activities, such as using
Graphical Desktops (KDE, Gnome), using file managers, web browsers,
email clients, multimedia (sound, video, CD/DVD recording and
playback), office applications (spreadsheets, word processing,
presentations), graphics editing, using digital cameras, scanners,
Manual is considerably bulkier and covers Installation, setting up
various servers (web, email, DNS, DHCP etc), using the Graphical
Admin Tool, YAST, Hardware issues, backups, system security, and
advanced topics such as LVM, package management, notes on 32- and
64-bit computing (on AMD64 or EM64T hardware), booting issues,
kernel related topics, X-Window System, laptop issues – such as
multiple profiles, PCMCIA devices, Wireless devices hotplug facility
and file synchronization between multiple systems.
documentation is available online in various formats. The usual Linux
documentation in man-pages, GNU-info formats is still available.
hardware I used/am using for testing SLP9.2 is as follows:
IBM R40e, Intel Celeron 2GHz, 256MB, 20GB IDE, Broadcom 5901 network
adapter, LCD 1024×768 display, ATI Radeon IGP 340M VGA chip, various
USB based peripherals such as Kingston USB-storage, USB-Network
adapter, USB-serial adapter etc.
PC: Duron 1GHz, 256MB, 60GB IDE, CDRW and DVD-ROM drives, Realtek
8139 for ADSL connectivity and DEC Tulip network adapter for
internal-LAN, nVidia Riva 32MB VGA adapter, 19″ Sony G400
Trinitron 1280×1024 CRT, 256k ADSL unlimited package from SingNet
with AzTech DSL900E Turbo ethernet ADSL modem. Peripherals are Epson
Perfection 1250 USB scanner, Epson Stylus Photo 915 USB Printer,
Nikon CoolPix 3100 Digital camera with USB interface.
XPC with AMD Athlon64-3200+ MHz, 512MB RAM, 21″ Sony Trinitron
G500 CRT, nVidia GeForce FX5200 VGA adapter with 64MB VRAM, Seagate
SATA 80GB, additional Intel Gigabit Desktop adapter, DVD ROM, HP
LaserJet 4050N network printer.
Z-Pro Model Workstation: Dual Xeon EM64T 3.6GHz, 4GB RAM, nVidia
Quadro FX100 with 128MB, Dual SCSI U320 73GB, DVD-RAM, 21″ IBM
C220p Monitor @1280×1024
lot of reviews focus primarily on ease of installation (or lack of
it). However I would like to cut short the installation part. The
reason being, SLP sports a nice GUI installer with extremely good
hardware recognitions and automatic configuration capabilities.
Installation, for me, turned out to be clicking mouse buttons and
occasionally entering some text, such as passwords. It cannot get any
easier than this!
devices listed above were recognized and configured, including ADSL
connections, USB devices etc.
installation, which took about an hour, a beautiful KDE desktop
started up. A small tweak to the KDE setup (using KDE Control
Center) restored the defaults I like (Mosfet’s Aqua, background
This release is available
in multiple languages including asian languages such as Korean,
Chinese and Japanese apart from a bunch of European languages.
However Indian language support is still weak, though more are
getting added ( Tamil, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu etc
are already included in many distros).
( your traditional Intel/AMD 32 bit CPUs) such as Pentium, Xeon,
Pentium-M, Athlon, Duron etc.
Extended x86 64-bit technology from AMD, Opteron and Athlon64 CPUs
Extended x86 64-bit technology from Intel.
Key Applications and
Desktop version 2.6
Desktop version 3.3
v2.0 which can connect to MS-Exchange servers
c/c++ and fortran compilers v3.3.4, Perl, PHP, Python etc
server programs such as Apache – web, Postfix – mail, Bind – DNS,
DHCP – server, MySQL and PostgreSQL database servers, LDAP, News,
NFS and Samba for Windows networking, Zope – AppServer
the security front you get Kerberos client, SSL, GNU TLS, SUSE
firewall script, nmap, nessus, chkrootkit, Selinux policy compiler
is switching to X.org’s new X11 server from the old XFree servers.
– a vector drawing program
Nvu – a WYSIWYG website editor – based on the famous Mozilla
suite. I find that it is quite useful for static website creation. (
I traditionally use vim or quanta)
from the large collection of Open Source applications, SUSE has
packaged some commercial software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader,
TextMaker/PlanMaker and MainActor5 (video editing). However I did not
try out these applications.
has thoughtfully included SUN Java 1.4.2, Flash Player and RealPlayer
10, which is quite useful.
The Professional series
is released about twice a year by SuSE. Software updates are
available for two years, which, for a desktop, laptop and high volume
( 2-way, web/file/email/print/dns etc) server, is quite reasonable.
If you need much longer
maintenance periods, or certifications, probably you should look at
SuSE Linux Enterprise Server products or Novell Linux Desktop 9,
which are fully certified against major applications and supported
Using the YAST tool, a
few clicks will take you through locating mirrors for getting update
packages, selecting which ones to install and complete the action.
Due to the Open nature of Linux, aggressive updates are quite common,
and by the time I finished installing the systems, there were already
some updates waiting to be applied!
SuSE places a round
SuSE Watcher applet on the desktop that monitors for updates and
changes color depending on the importance of the patch ( Red –
when security patches are pending, Orange – When normal or bug fix
patches are pending), a click brings up a password prompt for root
user and launches the update program. (Note that logging in as root
or administrator is heavily discouraged on Linux systems, you are
required to create a normal unprivileged user and login with that
What I liked:
recognition is vastly improved.
my laptop, I just formatted my root partition, with the data in
/home undisturbed. All previous settings (from SLP9.1) were
related documents: both in native OpenOffice format as well as
Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint formats.
with SSH and VPN’s worked fine.
Ripping , Audio
CD, creating and Playing MP3s – amarok is especially nice.
Playing VCDs (my
child’s collection) with xine and kaffeine
and printing of full color images using various applications (gqview/gwenview, gimp and KDE/cups printing), scanning photos was a
Obviously, apart from
all the excellent applications, there are some nice touches which
every distro vendor adds. Here’s what I like about SUSE:
CD/DVD default choice is “Boot from Hard disk” and not start
installation. This feature is useful if you forget to remove the
CD/DVD and reboot. The system will boot up from hard disk, and not
affect your existing system in any way.
Yast2 can download
and install Microsoft core-fonts package which provides several
excellent quality free True Type fonts. The fonts cannot be included
on the CD (due to legal restrictions), but you can download and
install via Yast Online Update.
The very well-written
system configuration program, yast. Yast is comprehensive, well
designed and easy to use, albeit a little slow.
Advanced users may
find network autoinstall very useful (autoyast).
install configures and starts a firewall, which is good!. Also note
that X server starts up with “tcp nolisten” option. So if you
are wondering why incoming X11 connections fails, change this option
through YAST custom security settings.
unlimited installations for non-commercial use. So yes, you can buy
a boxed set and install it on your multiple home systems!
Wishlist, Shortcomings & assorted notes:
As all products have some things that can be improved upon, I would
like to point out a few:
formats needing special codecs will not play. SuSE does not bundle
them due to issues related to redistribution. I had to download the
bundle from mplayerhq site and install the Win32 codec DLLs in
/usr/lib/win32/ to watch my collection of avi’s and mpg’s. Quicktime
(MOV) files still refuse to play.
e-Banking with DBS
needed an update to the Java VM from 1.4.2 included in the distro to
1.5 (Tiger). Note this is not a bug with SuSE, rather an issue with
DBS website code.
ACPI power off
failed to work on my home system. However, after the subsequent
kernel update (via yast) it works now.
Suspend seems not
to work on the laptop. So I need to shutdown every time. Hope this
gets fixed soon…
programmer-oriented document may be nice to have ( explaining the
internals of SUSE, compile time flags, etc)
SLP support for
PPC architecture that can cover PPC systems (only Enterprise Server
editions available now) would be nice.
A UML (user mode
Linux) config tool (such as the one bundled in SLES 9) is nifty and
could be a useful addition to SLP9.2, though I did not explore
FAUmachine which is included.
Manual update for
nVidia drivers are still necessary to fully exploit the hardware
9.2 Pro definitely deserves the Professional tag in its name.
It is a professionally made package, no doubt. It has a large set of
software packages, excellent hardware support, is secure and fast.
For the Advanced computer user, SLP9.2 is an excellent choice for
desktop, laptop or small server usage. If you are a power user using
Windows XP or Mac OSX, you would be surprised how far Linux has come.
Rating (1=poor, 5=acceptable, 10=excellent)
Installation ( ease, hardware identification)
Software bundled and default choices
Adherence to standards ( LSB, FHS, IETF)
Default security and ease of updating, patching
9 out of 10
SUSE & Novell:
About the author:
Anand Vaidya is a Linux enthusiast since 1999. He currently works as
the Director of a Singapore company specializing in High Performance
Computing and providing Linux/UNIX services.